Thursday, 8 December 2011

Incoherent Rambling

What is babble? What is comprehensible? I was blethering the other day about how certain passages of Shakespeare were intelligible to his audience, but are gibberish to a lot of people today. Last night I watched Heathers, a renowned '80s black comedy. For the first ten or fifteen minutes my friends and I furrowed our brows, cast our eyes at one another in bafflement, and exclaimed "What does that mean?" We do not speak late '80s American High School-ese. Happily, after a while we either tuned it out or the plot kicked in. Similarly, I have found that the best way to watch Shakespeare is to have it be a very grandly-acted version, bedecked with evocative scenery, and not to pay very close attention. The actors' intonations and the surroundings clue me in, and I don't end up giggling at lines such as "What, you egg! Young fry of treachery!" (Macbeth).

Life is not like watching a play or a film or a TV show. One can't let oneself be swept along. One has to put one's hand on the tiller and keep an eye out for the rocks. I ran aground about half an hour ago. I was trying to read someone else's blog (not that of anyone I know, just a random internet denizen), and realised I could not read it. I felt a bit puzzled, tried again, and realised that capital letters, full stops - look, the whole shebang was gone. I've read the guy's blog before and not fallen into a morass of incomprehension. I gave up in mild exasperation. I swiftly tumbled onto another blog. This time much the same happened, but the problem was further compounded with a frightful typeface. I drew some punctuation from the quiver of my mind, fired it into appropriate slots, and managed to get to the end. As far as I know, both these bloggers were native Anglophones.

In my experience, people who do not have English as their first language are rather better at it than we natives. I've lamented English teaching in England before, so I'll spare you a reiterated rant. It is bloody irritating, though, when I am trying to read something in my own language, and through no fault of my own I am prevented. Perhaps that's an argument for dodging the internet and leaping back into bed with literature. Given how nippy it has been getting around here, that's a more literal image than you might imagine. I have been diving into my electrically-warmed bed for a couple of hours' reading for the last few nights, and expect to do so again this night. Fingers crossed I'll get some more work done on those tanks before I do, though. Until next time, readers, adieu!

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